Feminist writer Jenny Morris writes:
‘Most people who we are interacting with including our lovers, are not like us--they don’t have a disability. It is therefore very difficult for us to recognise and challenge the values and judgments that are applied to us and our lives. Our ideas about disability and ourselves are generally informed by those who are not disabled’ (Morris, 1991, p.37). It takes courage to go out in public when we repeatedly encounter rejection and revulsion towards our non-normative bodies, are asked questions, such as ‘‘what’s wrong with you?’’ which exemplify an unequal power relationship and embody assumptions about our lives, and when ‘the very physical environment tells us that we don’t belong.
The affects of oppression
‘Once oppression has been internalized, little force is needed to keep us submissive’ as we continually inflict the pain of our oppression back upon ourselves (Campbell, 2009, p.16). The mental health effects of living in a disabling society have been found to place us at ‘double the risk of devolving a substance abuse problem or psychiatric disorder due to increased stress’ compared to the general population (Turner, Lloyd, & Taylor, 2006, p.221). The high rates of domestic violence and abuse women with disabilities are subject to leaves us at a greater risk of developing PTSD, depression, anxiety or other forms of mental illness, subsequent disabilities which further compound our disadvantage.
What can we do as feminists?
‘One of the reasons the situation for people with disabilities has been so slow to change is precisely because they are positioned as the ‘other’ in our culture. To change such terrain requires all of us to undertake a great deal of listening, talking and communication in so many ways in order to imagine disability differently and to change something that moves often only very imperceptibly-our culture itself. To embark on this journey, and proceed with it when it becomes difficult, we cannot avoid seeking answers to some important questions: why are we so concerned with defining and enforcing normalcy? What is at stake for all of us in confronting the frailties of our bodies, minds and lives? (Goggin & Newell 2005, p.200). How can we as feminists resist normative constructions of bodies/minds and find ways to subvert and challenge them?